"I am Shao Kahn, Konqueror of Worlds! You will taste no victory!" - Shao Kahn, Mortal Kombat (2011)
Shao Kahn is the almighty emperor of the dark realm of Outworld in the Mortal Kombat series. Not only is he a ruthless, power-hungry tyrant, he is a seemingly immortal demigod who wields tremendous magical ability. He is often viewed as the embodiment of evil and has served as the primary antagonist in several Mortal Kombat games and other media.
Countless millennia ago, Shao Kahn served as the adviser and bodyguard to the Dragon King Onaga, former ruler of Outworld. He usurped control of Onaga's empire by poisoning him and taking command of his armies, continuing with the Dragon King's remaining military campaigns and acquiring numerous magical artifacts and conquering other realms, whether through direct invasion or through the Mortal Kombat tournament.
Perhaps Kahn's greatest triumph was the conquest of the realm of Edenia. Skilled, the warriors under King Jerrod may have been, but they could not match the ferocity of Kahn's forces. The realm lost ten Mortal Kombat tournaments in a row, allowing Shao Kahn to force open the portals between Edenia and Outworld, merging the two worlds together. When King Jerrod was killed, Kahn took Edenia's queen Sindel as his own bride and adopted her daughter Kitana. Not long after the fall of Edenia, Sindel committed suicide, unable to endure the agony of losing her husband, her kingdom and even her daughter to Kahn's cruelty. But Kahn would not allow Sindel to escape him so easily and used his dark magic to bind her soul to Outworld, preventing her transition to the afterlife.
Shao Kahn would eventually set his sights on Earthrealm, commanding his demonic sorcerer Shang Tsung to lead his warriors against Earth's own champions in Mortal Kombat. Tsung and his forces were able to win nine consecutive victories over a period of 500 years, only to have their winning streak dashed by the Great Kung Lao, a warrior monk from the White Lotus Society. With this loss, Kahn was forced to wait another 500 years and win another ten tournaments before he would be allowed to set foot in Earthrealm. His opportunity would come again when Shang Tsung recruited the Shokan prince Goro as one of Outworld's selected warriors for the next tournament. This turned out to be a great investment as Goro not only killed Kung Lao, but became reigning champion of Mortal Kombat for the next eight tournaments. But on the tenth tournament of this streak, Goro and Shang Tsung were defeated by the Shaolin monk Liu Kang, once again ruining Shao Kahn's plans of conquest.
Shang Tsung begged Shao Kahn for his life, and came up with a plan to lure Earth's chosen warriors to Outworld for a second tournament. Convinced, Shao Kahn spared Tsung's life and restored his youth. If Earthrealm's champions could be killed, they would not be able to cause further damage to Kahn's plans. With the captured Kano and Sonya Blade as bait, and enraging Liu Kang by sending Baraka and his troops to destroy the Shaolin temples, they confidently waited for the Earth warriors to fall into the trap. Despite Kahn's vast power, Liu Kang's determination saw him through, and he defeated the despot. Unwilling to accept defeat, Kahn called his armies to destroy the Earthrealm warriors. They fled back to Earthrealm, out of Kahn's clutches.
The Outworld tournament was merely a diversion, however, giving Shang Tsung time to complete the procedure of resurrecting Queen Sindel on Earth without interruption from Earthrealm's warriors. When Sindel returned to life on Earth, Shao Kahn was permitted to enter the realm in order to retrieve her, but brought his armies through to invade and conquer. Kahn began to merge Earthrealm with Outworld and used his unholy magic to strip the Earth of all life, claiming the souls of virtually everyone on the planet. However, Earthrealm's chosen defenders were protected from Kahn's sorcery by the thunder god Raiden to give the world a fighting chance at survival.
In the ensuing fights, Kahn was confronted by Kung Lao, another Shaolin monk and descendant of the warrior Goro defeated to become champion of Mortal Kombat, but Kahn blasted a powerful spell on Kung Lao nearly killing him. It was Liu Kang who again managed to defeat Kahn. Worn down from the battle, Kahn recalled his squads and retreated back to Outworld. This stopped the merger with Outworld, and restored Earthrealm to its original status. To make matters worse for Kahn, many of his loyal soldiers had abandoned him, and Kitana had succeeded in turning Sindel to her side, restoring Edenia as an independent realm.
The emperor was now greatly weakened, and would remain so for a period of several years, remaining inactive during Shinnok's war against the gods. The Edenians had in the meantime made peace and military treaties with the Shokan, on whom Kahn had always heavily relied, and were ready to attack Outworld a few years later. It was only through his new commander Kano's ingenuity, and the stealth of his assassin Noob Saibot (who critically wounded Goro) was Kahn able to save the day (in a manner of speaking) and force the Edenian army into a draw. Soon afterward, the sorcerers Quan Chi and Shang Tsung entered his throne room, and swore false allegiance to the emperor. Quan Chi and Shang Tsung caught Shao Kahn off guard and seemingly killed him.
However, Shao Kahn had not perished at all. The emperor was in hiding while a magically-constructed clone of him sat upon his throne to deceive his adversaries. The real Kahn had travelled to Kuatan and used what little power he had left to revive the mortally-wounded Goro, thus gaining him and his people as allies once more.
When Kahn learned of Onaga's resurrection, he waited in the shadows for his opportunity to strike. Onaga would eventually be removed from his throne and Kahn's fortress would be taken over by his former lieutenant/daughter Mileena. Kahn chose that moment to assault his own fortress and reclaim what was rightfully his, once more rising to Emperor of Outworld.
When the realms faced an impending apocalypse, Shao Kahn rallied the Forces of Darkness into final kombat against the Forces of Light in the Battle of Armageddon. Atop the Pyramid of Argus, the elemental known as Blaze gathered strength in preparation to carry out his purge of the kombatants. The battle was long and ferocious, but eventually came down to two fighters: Shao Kahn and his ancient adversary Raiden, the thunder god charged with the protection of Earthrealm. The two fought Blaze and defeated him, but it was Kahn who struck the killing blow and gained the elemental's vast power as his prize.
The empowered Shao Kahn became all but invincible and fought Raiden atop the pyramid, easy defeating him. He gloated over his victory before finally bringing his Wrath Hammer down upon Raiden's head, ending him for good. With no one left to stop him, Shao Kahn would conquer the entire universe.
Before his death at Kahn's hands, Raiden uttered the words "He must win". These words were a message to his past self and thus set a chain of new events in motion that would greatly alter the future. In this alternate timeline, Shao Kahn had enlisted the aid of the sorcerer Quan Chi as well as Shang Tsung, relying on the both of them to carry out his plans for dominating Earthrealm. When the Earthrealmers won Mortal Kombat, events continued to unfold as before up until Raiden interfered with the Lin Kuei's capture of Smoke. While Smoke had been spared the fate of becoming a cyborg, Sub-Zero was taken in his place. During the final bout of the Outworld tournament, Kung Lao defeated Kintaro, but as the Shaolin warrior celebrated his victory, Shao Kahn stepped up behind him and snapped his neck, instantly killing him. Kahn then fought against a vengeful Liu Kang and was defeated, seemingly being killed.
Kahn would not be so easily killed, however, and his recovery was accelerated with the help of Quan Chi, who then suggested an all-out invasion of Earthrealm. But Kahn could not enter Earthrealm thanks to a magical ward left by Sindel, that is until Quan Chi was able to dispel it by resurrecting Sindel on Earth, allowing Kahn to enter in order to claim her.
As the Outworld Invasion of Earthrealm raged on, Raiden and his champions suffered staggering losses. All of Raiden's attempts at deciphering his message from the future and working to prevent Armageddon seemed futile and the Elder Gods would still do nothing to help. However, Raiden would eventually reach the conclusion that the words "He must win" actually referred to Shao Kahn, realising that if Shao Kahn won Earthrealm without following the rules of Mortal Kombat, then the Elder Gods would be forced to intervene. This theory proved to be correct as Shao Kahn forced his way into Earthrealm and found himself assaulted by the Elder Gods. The gods failed to stop Kahn directly and offered their power to Raiden who fought the emperor in a final battle. Thanks to the Elder Gods' aid, Raiden defeated Shao Kahn and the despot was spirited away by the gods to face their divine wrath. Shao Kahn the Konqueror was no more.
After Shao Kahn's death, his "daughter" Mileena would become the new Kahnum of Outworld. Her time as empress would be brief, but during her reign she was universally despised by Outworld's citizens. Labelled the "Mad Empress", she proved to be every bit as cruel as her "father", if not moreso. During Mileena's reign, Outworld descended into civil war as the Osh-Tekk warrior Kotal organized a rebellion in order to seize the throne. After years of warfare, Mileena was forced to flee into the wastelands and Kotal was crowned Kahn of Outworld.
Twenty-five years after Shao Kahn's death, Kronika - the Keeper of Time - enacted a plot to reset the timeline. Her plot began with merging the past and present, resulting in the restoration of several deceased warriors, including Shao Kahn. Appearing in the Koliseum, the former emperor was confused by the lack of fanfare from his subjects and the sight of his general Kotal seated on his throne. Kombat soon erupted between the time-displaced heroes and villains, but Kahn proved to be at a disadvantage. A portal suddenly opened, through which D'Vorah appeared and called for Kahn and the other villains to withdraw.
After following D'Vorah through the portal, Shao Kahn was brought up to speed on the events that had transpired since the Outworld tournament, how his invasion of Earthrealm had failed and how his heir Mileena had been killed. Kronika then appeared before the tyrant and requested that he rally the armies of Outworld in support of her plan to create a new timeline where Raiden didn't exist. In exchange for aiding Kronika's scheme, Shao Kahn was promised an even greater empire that would expand through all of eternity. Kahn readily accepted the Titan's offer and returned to Outworld to rally his Tarkatan hordes.
Shao Kahn made a temporary base for himself among Baraka's war kamp where he plotted his return to Outworld's throne. During this time, Kotal Kahn and a past version of Jade infiltrated the kamp, but their mission was compromised when Kotal attempted to execute innocent Tarkatans for crimes their future selves commited. The two were surrounded and captured, with Jade being given over to Skarlet so she could feed on the Edenian's blood. As for Kotal, Shao Kahn planned to take him back to the Koliseum for a public execution.
Later, at the Koliseum, Shao Kahn was about to put Kotal to death before crowds of onlookers when the execution was interrupted by Kitana, who had rallied the armies of Baraka and Queen Sheeva to her side and also freed Jade. Jade freed Kotal from his bonds, allowing he and Shao Kahn to resume their previous duel. This time, however, Shao gained the upper hand and defeated Kotal by using his Wrath Hammer to break the Osh-Tekk warrior's back. Kitana then challenged her adopted father herself and Shao Kahn mockingly bemoaned letting Kitana live after killing her father, Jerrod, sneering that he never wanted Jerrod's heir, only his wife. He then went on to say that he kept Kitana alive only to make his new queen happy, and that he had no reason to spare her again. Driven by rage and her desire to liberate her people, Kitana fought Shao Kahn and defeated him, using her bladed fans to slash out his eyes and blind him.
Beaten and humiliated, Shao Kahn was locked away in the dungeon beneath the Koliseum. However, he would not be a prisoner for long; while being tortured by his Shokan jailers, he was visited by none other than Sindel, whom had been resurrected by Shang Tsung. Sindel killed the Shokan guards and released her husband, taking him to the Soul Chamber where its magic regenerated his eyes and restored him to full strength.
Following this rejuvenation, Shao Kahn and Sindel went on a mission to intervene in the battle between Raiden and Kronika's forces to seize the Hourglass for themselves. They defeated Sonya, Cassie, and Johnny, seizing their ships that they were planning to take across the Sea of Blood. Dumping cargo to increase their speed, they caught up to Kitana Kahn's ship. Boarding the vessel, Shao Kahn brutally struck down Kotal, and he and Sindel fought Kung Lao, throwing him overboard after his defeat. After, the pair battled Liu Kang and Kitana, with Sindel defeating her daughter and Shao Kahn striking down Liu Kang and crushing his legs, also crippling the future revenant Liu Kang in the process.
Arriving at Kronika's island, Shao Kahn rallied the remaining Outworld forces to his side and continued the assault on Kronika's Keep, allying with the newly empowered Shang Tsung who had multiplied his own power using Kronika's Crown. Shao Kahn, Shang Tsung and Sindel then easily defeated Kronika's last protectors, the revenants Kung Lao, Kitana and Jade, killing them. However, Shao Kahn and Sindel reveled in their victory too quickly, and were struck down by a surprise attack from Shang Tsung. The sorcerer revealed his plan to take the Hourglass and Kronika‘s powers for himself and offered the couple a spot in “his” New Era as his minions. Enraged, the tyrannical couple battled Shang Tsung, but are overwhelmed by his increased power. Having defeated his former masters, Shang Tsung consumed their souls, becoming ever more powerful.
Powers and Abilities
Shao Kahn wields great control over the black arts, possesses incredible brute strength and he is seemingly immortal. With every world he has conquered, his power has only increased.
- Longevity - Shao Kahn has lived for untold millennia and survived numerous fatal attacks. His life is sustained through dark sorcery as well as his natural longevity as an Outworlder.
- Energy Projection - Kahn has displayed the ability to launch blasts of magical energy, conjure spears of light and even envelop himself in a magical shield that can deflect enemy projectiles.
- Charging Spikes - One of Shao Kahn's favoured attacks is to rapidly dash and ram his opponents with his spiked shoulder pads.
- Soul Consumption - Shao Kahn is capable of devouring the souls of his enemies in order to increase his power. Much of his magic is fueled by souls.
- Tai Tzu - Shao Kahn's favoured fighting style, though he has learned numerous combat techniques over the millenia of his life.
- Wrath Hammer - A large, enchanted maul that Shao Kahn can summon out of thin air. This weapon is so large and heavy that only someone of Kahn's strength can wield it.
- Home Run - One of Shao Kahn's fatalities; he launches his opponent into the air with his Wrath Hammer, then as they fall he swings the hammer again and smashes the opponent to pieces.
- Double Down - Another of Kahn's fatalities; he jabs his hands into the opponent's chest and then slowly rips them apart down the middle.
Appearances in other media
Malibu ComicsShao Kahn appears as a major antagonist in the Mortal Kombat comic book series written by John Tobias. In the comic, his character remains largely the same as in the games; he rules Outworld and seeks to conquer Earthrealm through the Mortal Kombat tournament, sending Shang Tsung to carry out his will. Interestingly, this incarnation of Shao Kahn never wears his trademark helmet. This is the first time in any MK media that Shao Kahn's face is revealed (The facial design of Kahn's comic counterpart would be used for future game appearances).
In the Battlewave story arc, Shao Kahn would arrange a different plan to open the portals. He kidnaps Sonya and, by means of hypnosis and brainwashing, convinces her to marry him. The marriage would weaken the barriers between realms enough to allow Shao Kahn to seize Earth easily (and make Sonya the queen of both realms and his wife). During the wedding ceremony held, however, the wedding would be crashed and he would be stopped by the Earthrealm warriors' interruption, ending with Sonya becoming free from Kahn's influence. In the comic, he claims to not be the romantic type, but he also states that Sonya is very beautiful as his bride. However, he soon comes to realize that both Outworld and Earth would be in turmoil as a result of the wedding, questioning his own plan and effectively calling off the ceremony.
Mortal Kombat: Defenders of the Realm
Shao Kahn serves as the primary antagonist of this short-lived animated series. Since Shang Tsung's failure in the Mortal Kombat tournament, the emperor of Outworld has used all the power at his disposal to weaken Earth's dimensional fabric, allowing warriors from Outworld to attack Earthrealm on a frequent basis.
Though he largely works from behind the scenes, Shao Kahn does become directly involved in the events of a few episodes. In "Resurrection", he brings Shang Tsung back to life and grants him a magical orb that can disrupt the balance of nature. In "Abandoned", he sends his spy Ruby to learn the location of the Defenders' base from Jax, who had temporarily left the team. In the final episode, "Overthrown", Kahn finds himself betrayed by his closest minions when Kitana organizes a rebellion against him.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
In the sequel to the original Mortal Kombat movie, Shao Kahn is portrayed by actor and bodybuilder Brian Thompson. In this continuity, the Outworld emperor is stated to be the son of the Elder God Shinnok and brother of the thunder god Raiden.
The movie's plot is similar to that of the video game Mortal Kombat 3. With Shinnok's help, Shao Kahn is able to resurrect Sindel and open the portals between Earth and Outworld. In seven days' time, Earthrealm will be completely merged with Outworld and humanity will be exterminated. Raiden and the surviving warriors from the tournament rally what allies they can in order to try and reunite Kitana and Sindel in order to break Kahn's spell.
The film culminates in a final battle between Liu Kang and Shao Kahn, with Liu managing to overpower the emperor. Kahn pleads for Shinnok to aid him, but the Elder Gods intervene and prevent this, allowing the battle to continue without interference. Liu Kang manages to beat Shao Kahn and kill him, thus undoing the merger and restoring Earth to its original state.
Mortal Kombat Legacy
In the live-action webseries, Shao Kahn is portrayed by Aleks Paunovic. The webseries depicts the Outworld ruler's conquest of Edenia and marriage to Queen Sindel, as well as his adoption of the infant Kitana. In order to protect Kitana from Kahn's corrupting influence, Sindel commits suicide and creates a magical ward to safeguard her daughter.
As Kitana grows up, Shao Kahn realizes that she will one day betray him and orders Shang Tsung to create a daughter for him who will remain loyal. Using Kitana's blood and the blood of a Tarkatan, Shang Tsung creates Mileena. Shao Kahn trains his two daughters to serve as his assassins and has them hunt down former Edenian king Jerrod and his various decoys.